In your powerful piece on Charlottesville ("#ThisIsAbsolutelyUs," Aug. 17), authors Cahill and Greenson remind us that slavery and the massacre of native peoples in North America date back to the 1600s. Additionally, Jewish refugees arrived in that century: descendants of 200,000 Spanish and Portuguese Jews, driven from their homes in 1492.
Unsettled for generations, some eventually reached the Dutch colonies in South America, fleeing north when Portuguese control brought the Inquisition. Refused entry to Cuba and Jamaica, they landed in New Amsterdam (New York), where the governor characterized them as "hateful enemies and blasphemers." Though Jews had been banned from England since 1290, when the British conquered the Dutch colony, Jews gained rights as British subjects, though not allowed to worship publicly.
By the late 1700s, more enlightened attitudes prevailed. George Washington inherited, purchased and ultimately freed slaves but, in a letter to the Jewish community of Rhode Island, he articulated the high ideals of the new nation:
"The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."
What would President Washington say of President Trump, who fails in unequivocally condemning people who celebrate the murder of thousands of gays, people with disabilities, and Romani people; and 6 million Jews?
Naomi Steinberg, Carlotta
Yo, White! I am disappointed in our community, I thought we were better than we actually are, we need to be honest with ourselves; we're a bunch of racists. If you're white and you're reading the North Coast Journal, it's safe to assume that you are in some way racist.
The recent displays of blatantly racist behavior throughout our culture allow neo-liberal (hipster) racists to think they aren't racist. Blatant racism provides cover for aversive racism. Aversive racism is when you have negative attitudes toward people of color while still maintaining a groovy attitude.
Whiteness is blinding. Cultural racism preserves systems of oppression and preserves dominant cultural norms. We internalize the messages of white racial superiority and use that to justify our behavior. We all need to confront our own racism.
Many of us say we're color blind. When we do that we're telling people their experience is an illusion and therefore invalid. Saying you're color blind is so disrespectful. The path to racial equity begins within. A simple starting point is to start thinking about how you use micro-aggressions in your life. Because we're so self centered, micro-aggressions may seem inconsequential.
Examine how white privilege has benefited you. Explore your "white fragility." Step outside of your comfort zone. Find your voice. Write some letters. Organize a demonstration. Begin the conversation about race with your friends. Do something.
Cheri Strong, Arcata
If public statues simply represent our history, why was one of the first U.S. actions in Iraq to pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein? He was an important part of that country's history.
Jane Hill, Eureka
I don't condone what happened in Charlottesville, but I understand why it did. For years, the Left have been running rough-shod over the rest of us, trashing cars, smashing windows and looting stores. And getting away with it! These acts are explained away as being a tiny minority of the demonstrators, the clowns that wear bandannas over their faces. (Perhaps they have colds and don't want to spread their germs.) But I don't see any of the peaceful marchers trying to stop them.
Now the latest hijinks, tearing down statues that offend them (who "them" is, I have no idea) — statues that have stood collecting pigeon poop for almost 100 years, is the last straw and the Right is starting to fight back!
Richard C. Brown, Eureka